A license is perhaps not the first thing you think about when you're thinking of running a plumbing business. But it might be the most important one. To begin with, not only does getting a license help your credibility, it is mandatory!
Listed here is everything you need to know about becoming a licensed plumber.
"Is it illegal to work without a license?" Yes. We want to be clear: Licensing is mandatory, and working without a license will get you in trouble.
If you are interested in starting your own plumbing company or want to switch to plumbing from another trade, we can give you the steps you will need to go through from a journeyman to a licensed plumber.
Getting into an apprenticeship or trade school
You will need a GED or high school diploma before starting your education at a trade school or working as an apprentice under a licensed plumber.
But, suppose you want to get into a more competitive apprentice program and acquire a plumbing apprentice license. In that case, you should look into obtaining additional experience through coursework at your local community college. That will help show trade schools and plumbing companies that you are serious about making plumbing your career.
Acquiring the apprenticeship
If you wonder how long it takes to get a plumbing license, a plumber's apprenticeship typically lasts around 4–5 years, depending on which state you are studying in. Although this might sound like a long time, the good news is that you can expect to earn money while you pursue your plumbing license. Acquiring a license for a specific state, such as a Florida plumbing license, will depend on having the proper foundation.
Although you can earn money as an apprentice, that doesn't prevent you from taking a full course load of classes at your trade school. Being fully engaged in classes while working as an apprentice means you can expect a busy schedule for the duration of your apprenticeship.
Your trade school may help you find an apprenticeship, but be aware that some schools will consider it your job to do this independently; be mindful of what your school expects when choosing where to attend.
It is best to study under a master plumber with many years of experience when looking for an apprenticeship. Once accepted, your master plumber will make you learn on the job while also providing opportunities to grow your network and career opportunities.
As an apprentice plumber, it is important to know that your particular state may require registering as an apprentice before recognizing your apprenticeship. If you are not sure, check with your trade school or master, they will be able to help you out.
Qualifying for the license exam
Completing your apprenticeship isn't a guarantee that you will qualify for the Plumber's License exam. The requirements will vary from state to state, with some states having an online plumbing license. Consider which state you will work in before planning your license exam preparation.
Some states will require character testimonies and professional recommendations, while with others, you may also need to provide proof of insurance for your trade before you are allowed to register for the licensing exam.
If you are planning to work in your own state but want the option of moving or working in other states in the future, a license you acquire in one state makes you eligible to sit for the plumbing exam in another state. Some states also offer reciprocal trade licenses. A reciprocal trade license can be helpful if you work near a state border and want to pick up customers across state lines.
Clearing the license exam
After you apply for the license exam, the state will verify whether or not you meet all of the requirements. Once they have verified your credentials, the state will contact you and schedule a time to take the exam.
Usually, exams are scheduled on a monthly or bi-monthly basis. You can take the exam at various sites across the state, allowing you to choose the most convenient location. If you have studied hard in trade school and worked well during your apprenticeship, the licensing exam will not be much of a challenge—you will have prepared for anything they might throw at you.
Get a solid eight hours of sleep the night before. Arrive at the testing center at least an hour before the scheduled time for the exam so you can beat traffic and any unexpected delays. Once you start the exam, answer the questions that you're most comfortable with, so you have enough time to go back to questions that may be a little more challenging. Don't rush through the exam; you will have plenty of time for all the questions.
Once you pass the exam
Once the state evaluates your exam and you have received a passing score, you will receive a notification that you have successfully passed your Journeyman's Plumber exam. Next, you will receive a license with your unique ID number.
This license will be unique to each state, for example, a California plumbing license or a Texas plumbing license. It will also show how much experience you have as a plumber, with different tiers such as the journeyman license or master plumber license. Using the Internet, you can identify other licensed plumbers in the state, allowing you to partner with them on larger jobs.
With this license, plumbers can continue working with their master plumber without needing supervision. If you feel confident enough to start your own business, you also have that option. This license can broaden your career opportunities and improve how much you can earn on your own.
But earning your license isn't the completion of your licensing journey. You will need to go through the plumbing license renewal process every year. If you are interested in becoming a master plumber, you will need to sit through an additional exam. Check your state's requirements for what you will need to qualify before sitting for the Master plumber's exam.
There is a lot of money to be made in plying a trade, especially one as enduring as plumbing. But lucrative career opportunities are only available to those ready to dedicate their time and energy to proving they are serious about plumbing and not just worried about how much do plumbers make.
Although there are a few hurdles to cross, the path is well worth it and can offer a stable and satisfying career to anyone willing to stick with it and get themselves trained and licensed. If you have been wondering how to get a plumbing license and start making a name for yourself, this might be just the push you need.